Posted by: Yury Pritzker | May 7, 2009

Tragedy at base camp (but I am ok)

Today I came back from Camp 2 to BC. Unfortunately I have to start my update for the last 6 days that I spent on my second rotation with this day because we have some tragic news.

Today Everest stories are coming to me not from the books, but from the Ice Fall. My schedule is in sync with the Austrian team that is part of the Asian Trekking Eco Expedition. In BC we have different dining tents, but in Camp 2 we share everything.

This is a very nice group of people, who are led by Walter Laserer. He is a professional guide and summitted Everest already 2 times. This morning we all were having breakfast together and then I left for BC with my Sherpa Thuktan 5-10 min earlier.

We reached Camp 1 in 1h 10 min, and after a water break started down the Ice Fall. Very soon the sun hit us and it becomes very hot. This time, Thuktan was feeling something and he was hurrying me up all the time. He was moving very fast and I was trying to go as fast as I can. He was so scared, that sometimes he was two or three hundred meters in front of me, and most of the time I did not see him because of the maze of the Ice Fall.

We crossed over 25 ladders. Almost near the Base Camp (5 min), a huge Ice Avalanche hit from the West shoulder of Everest, as it did the last time. We were safe, but watched it coming to us. We knew that it is going to be only snow mist but hid from the path of the ice.

We reached he BC 5 min later, and as it happened, the Whole BC was watching the people still on the Ice Fall. All teams called on the radio to check on their people. Soon we found out that two people got into the crevasse.

Their Sherpa, Lachpa was missing. The BC response was tremendous. Many Sherpas and Western Guides started running up. We were all watching with binoculars and listening on the radio. We saw that some people were being helped out of the crevasses.

Emergency equipment was sent up – oxygen, stretchers, down sleeping bag. After 40 min we started hearing some good news – the climbers were not badly injured and were coming down on their own.

2 hours after the avalanche hit the rescue group came to BC. One of the climbers was bruised, hypothermic, but was ok. However the search for Lachpa Sherpa was unsuccessful, and was abandoned after 3h. This is the guy that I talked with this morning….It is the first death this year on Everest, and it is in our team.

Now I am reverting back to tell you about the beginning of my second rotation.

On 5/3 the day started at 4 am. We headed to the Ice fall to camp 2 directly, bypassing camp 1. Climbing Ice Fall in the dark makes time disappear. You do not know if you going for an hour or three. You just concentrate on breathing and it is hard.

At camp 1 I figured that I was fast coming up in 4 hours, one of the shortest times we’ve had. The weather changed, it start snowing and got windy and it took me another 3 hours to get to Camp 2. I came there completely exhausted got to my tent and could not move for 15 min. The last 40 min are the most difficult because your are moving along other team’s camp sites, but ours is almost at the top.

This was the hardest part of my day so far, but I did not know then what it would be like to get to camp 3 at 7200m.

5/4 went by sight seeing and resting. The night was tough. I was thinking whether I should sleep at camp 3 or just touch it and go down. Most of the people now do not sleep there because at the summit push most of us will use oxygen for sleep and on. After some consideration and Walter’s advice, I decided to sleep there.

On 5/5 we (my Sherpa and I) started to Camp 3. It took us 2 h to reach the Lhotse face where static ropes start. The Lhotse face is steep – sometimes up to 65%. We are using ascenders – moving it up and then making a step. You make a step, then two or three breaths, then another step. First section is the most steep and it goes and goes on. Then it eases up a little and there is a very long section of the wall under 45% were it never ends.

At this altitude you move so slowly that the end of the slope seems to be at the same place for hours. The last section before camp 3 is the ice wall at 75%. After it, tents are in 10 meters which takes 10 min to pass. Camp 3 is 5 tents sitting on a shelf carved out of ice. You basically can not walk any more than 10m before you would need crampons. We were at 7200m.

I spent the rest of the day breathing very hard and trying not to sleep. It was perfect weather and we could see as far as camp 1. The summit of Pumori that hangs over the BC was at the eye level and the Lhotse face was very close. It took me 5 h to get to camp 3, which was very good time. The night went very well. I was feeling very good in the morning with my pulse going at 80.

On 5/6 we went back to camp 2. This was another lesson to learn. For some people going down a steep ice wall is a technical challenge so they are going face up (to the slope) and moving very slowly. For me it was not difficult and I moved face down grabbing the rope with my hands and moving pretty fast; I bypass many people on the way but after an hour of such speed at such altitude I was out of breath and done.

It took me 15 min to get to my senses at the bottom of the face, but I was still very weak. Over the next 15 min moving slowly, I got some control over my breathing but did not fully recover until camp 2. It took us 3 h to get down. The whole day at camp 2 it was difficult to move from tent to tent though. You know the rest. I’m coming down to Pheriche at 4800m where we will stay for 4 nights resting before the summit push.

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